1. Max Lawhon, 26
Co-owner, Calhoun's Sports Bar and Grill
The Small Town Boy: When Max Lawhon, a native of Pine Bluff, left the University of Arkansas with a business degree in 2005, the last thing he expected to do was open a bar in downtown Memphis. "I went to school for entrepreneurship, and it could've just as easily been a hardware store," he says of his decision to open Calhoun's Sports Bar and Grill with Brad Ziemba three years ago. Now Lawhon lives and works in the South Main area, near his sister's store, Delphinium Boutique.
Says Lawhon, "When an opportunity is handed to you, you have to grab it. You have to be in the right place at the right time. But you also have to put yourself in that right place. When we opened, I was 23 years old. I didn't have a lot on the table. I could pick up and move, and if this business failed, I could start another one."
2. Anthony Siracusa, 25
The Evangelist: Anthony Siracusa started Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop, located in the basement of First Congregational United Church of Christ, in 2002, when he was just 18. After graduating from Rhodes College in 2009, he began bicycling around the world. So far, he's pedaled in Europe and Australia; China, Mexico, and Guatemala are next.
Siracusa's mantra is, "Bicycle paths connect communities in a way that roadways simply do not." Putting more bicyclists on Memphis' streets, he says, will positively impact crime, urban sprawl, poor public health, and social integration.
"Growing up in Memphis with the vestiges of the King assassination, the sanitation strike, and decades of poverty surrounding me, it was impossible to resist doing something to make the city a better place to live," he says. "I'll be back stateside in July, implementing what I've learned about how to make strong bicycle cultures a reality in the U.S. It's public infrastructure that makes sense."
3. Kerry Crawford-Trisler, 25
Blogger, I Love Memphis
The Ambassador: After Kerry Crawford-Trisler graduated from Cordova High School and attended college at Ball State, she contemplated a move to Chicago. Then she realized how much she missed home. "I also had this sense that all of the people who could make a difference were moving away," she says. "If someone didn't stick around, Memphis was never gonna get any better."
Two years later, Crawford-Trisler joined forces with the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau and founded the I Love Memphis blog, a virtual embassy which, she says, received a record 13,000 page views last month.
"Memphis is everybody's little sister: We can make fun of it, but nobody else can," Crawford-Trisler says. "But if Memphis is going to be the city that it can be — and the city I think it really is — more people need to wake up and be happy about being here."
4. Stephen Hackett, 23
Apple Service Manager, Securas Consulting Group
The Everyman: As a kid, Stephen Hackett, nephew of former city mayor Dick Hackett, seldom stepped foot out of suburban Bartlett. Enrollment at the University of Memphis changed all that, he says: "When I moved on campus, I realized the city wasn't as scary as it was made out to be, but I realized it could be better. That hit full speed when my son was born. This is the city my kids will grow up in."
In 2007, Hackett, a volunteer with the Greater Memphis Greenline Association, proclaimed his love for his hometown by getting its coordinates tattooed on his left arm. Two years later, he posted "Loving Memphis: An Open Letter" on his blog ForkBombr, challenging his fellow citizens to get involved.
"To sit and complain isn't doing the city any favors," Hackett says. "Each of us can do something, whether it's volunteering, donating, or just starting a conversation."
5. Tam Tran, 23
The Cinderella: Last year, Tam Tran was just another young artist working part-time as a graphic designer and showing her work at Otherlands Coffee Bar and Power House Memphis. Then, in late 2009, six of her works were chosen for inclusion in the 2010 Whitney Biennial at New York's Whitney Museum of American Art.
"I didn't go to art school, and I have no connection to the local art scene, so I was really surprised," says Tran, who was born in Vietnam in 1986 and immigrated to Memphis six years later. No William Eggleston disciple, she says, "I don't know many Memphis photographers other than my [U of M] classmates.
"Everything that's happening right now is crazy," Tran admits. "I just wanted to put my work out there, test the waters, with the Otherlands thing. I was kind of insecure about my work, so when I got in, I was excited. Afterwards, I thought, well, that's the end of that."
6. Meredith Pace, 24
Registered nurse, Christ Community Health Services
The Comforter: One of Meredith Pace's first assignments after graduating from Union University was in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Med. Next, she volunteered with Shelby County's infant mortality initiative, the Butterfly Project. Through her current job at Christ Community Health Services, she became passionate about working with refugees and providing health care for the poor and uninsured.
Although Pace has traveled as far as Afghanistan to treat patients with tuberculosis, she's found plenty of Memphis immigrants who need her help. "The health-care system is one of their first entry points into the U.S.," she says of Memphis' growing refugee population. "They need to feel well, physically and emotionally, to work through the adjustment, chaos, and stress of living in America. My life is so much richer, because I now have these friends from around the world. Knowing what they've endured and how far they've come pushes me to work harder too."
7. Ciara Conway, 21
Senior, Rhodes College
The Voice: After volunteering at Planned Parenthood her sophomore year of college, Ciara Conway realized that the Rhodes campus lacked a student forum for discussions about safe sex. In 2009, she founded the college's first Vox chapter, working with Planned Parenthood to educate her fellow students about reproductive rights and sexual health.
"There's such a stigma when it comes to talking about anything related to sex," says Conway, a native Memphian who plans to move on to med school. "Women shouldn't be ashamed of their sexual health or of saying the word 'vagina.' It doesn't completely define us, but we don't have to deny that it exists."
Conway's goal is to make Memphis a safer community where women can embrace every part of themselves — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. "As a Christian, it's my duty to share knowledge," she says. "Also, as a fellow human, it's my duty to help."
8. Keli Rabon, 24
Journalist, WREG News Channel 3
The Investigator: "If there's anywhere in this country that needs investigative reporting, this town is it," says Keli Rabon, a native Texan who came to Memphis in 2008 after working a beat in Mississippi. Since her arrival at WREG, Rabon, a winner of the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award, has taken on crime in Memphis City Schools, parents who aren't paying child support, and Army recruiting tactics that could affect homeland security.
"The lasting impact you can have in this position is what I get up for and what keeps me up at night," Rabon says. Her greatest hope, she says, is that her work impacts local policy for years to come. Referencing last year's investigation of the security policies at Memphis' schools, Rabon adds, "Kriner Cash won't speak to me anymore and [Shelby County district attorney] Bill Gibbons won't talk to me, but that doesn't mean I won't stop asking questions."
9. Michael Hudman, 29
Chef/owner, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen
The Locavore: In October 2008, Michael Hudman and his childhood friend Andy Ticer opened Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen in East Memphis. "I'm the youngest of 10 grandkids in an Italian family, and my whole life, anytime anything good happens, I ask, 'What are we gonna cook?'" Hudman says.
Hudman dates his and Ticer's dream of serving "the version of Italian food we had at home every Sunday" to as far back as high school. But first, he and Ticer attended college, went to culinary school, apprenticed for a variety of European chefs, and came home to spend four years shadowing Jose Gutierrez.
"Everything we did was [engineered] to bring us back here. This is where we're from; this is our family. Now it feels good to give back," Hudman says, explaining that from produce to graphic design, he and Ticer shop local. In his words, "Helping other local businesses not only makes the community better, it helps us out."
10. Shea Colburn, 24
Co-founder, Rozelle Artists Guild
The Catalyst: In 2003, Shea Colburn moved to Memphis from Dallas and never looked back. "I have a whole spiel on development," he says. "Dallas is one of the most burdened cities I've lived in. Memphis is more comfortable with itself. There's an easy network to fall into here, filled with like-minded people who support each other. And if you put more minds together creatively, you can get a lot more done."
In 2007, as a senior at Memphis College of Art, Colburn took that theory a step further, co-founding the Rozelle Artists Guild with the intention of pooling resources and ideas with other artists. Today, the cooperative, which has collaborated with local arts organizations on projects ranging from community-wide rummage sales to graffiti exhibitions, has a mailing list of 1,000-plus Memphians and a core group of eight to 10 artists who work in a shared space, although Colburn describes the guild's current status as "more of a [cerebral coalition] than a defined physical presence."
11. Kentucker Audley, 28
The Auteur: Although Kentucker Audley claims that he impulsively decided to move here from Kentucky in 2002 as a "practical joke," he claims in his next breath, "I never felt like I wanted to have a home, but Memphis has stuck with me." His adopted hometown has left an indelible mark on the writer/director/actor/editor/producer, who, three years ago, was lauded as one of Filmmaker Magazine's "25 New Faces in Independent Film."
Of his newest project, Holy Land, the latest in a self-styled "slacker" oeuvre that includes Bright Sunny South and Team Picture (released in 2006 and 2007, respectively), Audley says, "Memphis is on the table every second. It's completely intrinsic to all of my films. The Elvis vigil, Cozy Corner — it's all there. It's absolutely essential for me to exist in a community of artists who are tied to, excited about, and representing a particular place."
12. Josephine Williams, 27
GrowMemphis program coordinator, Mid-South Peace and Justice Center
The Nurturer: When Josephine Williams looks at the food on her plate, she sees the end result of a chain of events that affect the entire community. "Parts of Memphis are suffering from food insecurity," she says. "They don't have places to get fresh vegetables, and they can't afford healthy food."
Since 2008, Williams has worked with community gardens in Orange Mound, Binghampton, and Uptown Memphis. Via GrowMemphis, she helps test soil for lead, maps out planting spaces, and provides organizational tools and source materials. The process, she says, empowers urban gardeners, who discover lessons in better nutrition, self-sufficiency, and community pride.
"We need local food policy," Williams says. "I want to see a garden in every neighborhood, which would go a long way to creating a food-secure community."
13. Roshunda Buchanan, 29
Founder/president, 2Unique Community Salvation Foundation
The Role Model: Roshunda Buchanan's message is simple: "Be the best you know how to be." But the native Memphian knows that maintaining a positive yet disciplined lifestyle is a daily process. In 2005, Buchanan founded 2Unique, which pairs young adult mentors with teenagers and promotes abstinence through local events and a self-published magazine, also called 2Unique. "A lot of people can pick out the issues, but they don't want to get their hands dirty," Buchanan says. "My passion is helping teenagers value themselves."
She's certainly walking the walk: Last August, a 2Unique fund-raiser collected $2,000 for the organization, to help fund programs such as 1 U.N.I.T., which promotes successful relationships, and Find Your Design, which helps teens identify and develop their talents. "I've submitted my application for 501(c)(3) status, and I want this to go full-time and citywide," Buchanan says.
14. Dan Treharne, 26
Creative director, True South Studios
The Documentarian: "I'd love to do a feature film, absolutely," says Dan Treharne, a native Memphian who returned after receiving his master's in film studies from the University of Southern California. For now, however, Treharne is focusing his lens on cutting-edge topics like global business practices and educational reform, as seen in the documentary 2 Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution, released by True South last year.
Up next: a movie about the achievement gap, currently in production. "It's about the test score [discrepancy] between white and minority students," he explains. "If we could bridge that gap and give everyone a truly equal education, we could break the cycle of poverty.
"I feel like there's nothing but promise here right now," Treharne says of his decision to come back to Memphis. "We need to embrace it, nurture it, and make sure more people don't leave this town."
15. Joel Parsons, 24
Curatorial and marketing associate, National Ornamental Metal Museum
The Collaborator: In 2008, Joel Parsons created art with the assistance of unwitting colleagues ranging from Turkish karaoke performers to pedestrians in Mumbai. "As a young artist who was interested in working relationally and collaboratively, I couldn't have asked for anything better. Art became the way that I navigate the world," says the Arkansas native, who graduated from Rhodes College in 2007.
Even so, Parsons recognized that there's no place like home. "Memphis is a place I can get plugged into, yet it's not too overwhelming for a country boy. It's also a do-it-yourself city. I wanted to come back and renew relationships, reinvest myself a little deeper."
Ultimately, Parsons would like to run a nonprofit gallery and continue his studio practice. "I've had great friends and professors who are solitary artists, but for me, it's about incorporating as much energy as I can into my work."
16. Steven McMahon, 25
Dancer/choreographic associate, Ballet Memphis
The Newcomer: At first sight, Steven McMahon, born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, was slightly disenchanted with metropolitan Memphis. "When I came here in 2004, I lived in Cordova, which was nothing but strip malls and Walmart," the dancer says. "Then I moved into Midtown and found a real community that's trying to thrive. It's amazing how much art is here. Other than in big, big cities, I don't know where else you can go see the plays, dance productions, concerts, and art shows that are staged every weekend.
"I'm still trying to figure out Memphis," admits McMahon, who choreographed three works for Ballet Memphis, including The Wizard of Oz, which were staged in November 2009. "There's something raw about Memphis — an untapped potential, maybe — and that's where I want my next project to come from. I feel like the city and I are both trying to be something. What that is yet, I'm not sure."
17. Julie Lansky, 28
Buyer and marketing manager, Lansky 126
The Legacy: Initially, Julie Lansky had no interest in joining the family business, founded by her grandfather in 1946. "Once I got away, I said I was never moving back," she says, explaining that after graduating from the University of Colorado, she agreed to come home for a few months in mid-2002 and work at the clothing store, which counts Robert Plant and Johnny Rotten as customers.
"I learned the art of the sale from my grandfather, and my dad taught me the business from the inside out," Lansky says. "What I've brought is a new way of thinking that could be integrated into an already successful business."
While many mom-and-pop retailers are struggling, Lansky has flourished.
"We hire locally, give back to the community via donations and charity events, and more of the money spent here than at big box retailers goes back into the city," Lansky says.
18. Patrick Hendricks, 26
Project manager, the Med Foundation
The Caretaker: Patrick Hendricks had graduated from Lake Forest College and taken a job at New York-Presbyterian Hospital when he learned that his mother, a Whitehaven resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. "I put a lot of prayer into it and thought, She's by herself. It wasn't a tough decision for me to come back," he says.
"Every day, I get to see what the Med does. It's instant gratification," Hendricks says of his job, which includes grant writing and fund-raising for projects such as the Sunrise Program, a public-health initiative for pregnant teens.
For Hendricks, a 2010 NEXUS leadership protégé and active member of the Young Friends of the Shelby County Democratic Party, health care and social justice go hand-in-hand. "Right now, a number of people are left out of the system, and because they don't have primary care doctors, they come to the ER," he says. "Health care should be a right."
19. Tarrin McGhee, 27
Owner, Pique Creative
The Community Builder: "I've never been interested in a straight 9-to-5 job," says Tarrin McGhee, a Nebraskan transplant who graduated from the U of M in 2006. "I want to put my effort into giving back, to do what I can to improve the community."
So far, that commitment includes running her own marketing and communications business, serving as president of Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, and working as director of Common Ground, a three-year community-based initiative on race relations.
"The best advice I can give is to just find a way to get involved," McGhee says. "Stay informed and engaged on the issues that are affecting this city. Find out which issues you're concerned about and volunteer. Don't complain. Do something. Celebrate the direction we're headed in and keep Memphis moving forward."
20. The Magic Kids
The Next Big Thing: The buzz surrounding this Midtown-based band, which released "Hey Boy," a Beach Boys and Phil Spector-inspired single, on Goner last September, is about to go through the roof. The iconic British label Rough Trade already has reissued "Hey Boy" in the U.K., while super-fan (and punk legend) Steven McDonald traveled all the way to Memphis to hear the Magic Kids (Will McElroy, Bennett Foster, Alex Gates, Ben Bauermeister, and Michael Perry) firsthand.
"Will and I were working on a song, and we thought maybe we should start a side project," says Foster, 24, who, along with McElroy and Gates is an alumnus of local garage-rock group the Barbaras. "It turned into an Internet sensation, which was really bizarre." Last week, the Magic Kids inked a deal with True Panther Sounds, an imprint of indie giant Matador Records. Up next: an appearance at South By Southwest and a full-length album, due for release later this year.